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Boy meets boy toy

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Take one small boy and add a Lamborghini, the ultimate boy toy, and you’ll learn a thing or two about the power of a motor vehicle.

The Gallardo Road Show is a teaser for the real Lamborghini experience. Think controlled lust without the brute speed or dry technical specs. Participants get to try out the rampaging bulls under supervision in a controlled environment. It’s all part of owner Audi’s positioning of its ultrafast machine: a high-powered luxury car delivering an extreme emotional and physical rush. The marketer’s question is simple: Are you ready for the experience?

But that’s the official agenda. Now put a small boy in the mix. Why not? Loud mechanical objects are a huge draw for most children. If a lumbering bulldozer can put them in near ecstasy, what happens when they encounter a Lamborghini? To find out, I took my 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Benjamin, along to last year’s Gallardo Road Show at Mcely Chateau in Central Bohemia, about 70 km from Prague. Here’s what we learned:

Oh, that noise
Hearing is believing, if my boy’s response to the Gallardo LP560-4 is any guide. At the first distinctive roar of the 5,200 cc, V10 engine, Ben’s body tenses. There’s a simultaneous clinging to my leg and a 180-degree body turn to locate the source of the noise. Somehow the four parked Gallardos outside the Mcely chateau have gone unnoticed. Noise and motion are everything for this boy. This is a sound to be felt and emulated. With a bit of practice, he’ll be saying “Lambo” instead of the usual “train” or “tractor” to the kids in the sandbox.

A morning shower has left the roads wet and dirty. Each Gallardo has a splattering of central Bohemian mud on its sides. Cars, like children, can be beautiful with a bit of mud. The pearl-white Gallardo is particularly striking post-mud treatment. While not exactly a Jackson Pollock painting, it begs to be left unwashed for just a while longer. After all, how often do you see a Lamborghini without that car-show sheen? This aesthetic glory belongs to the white Gallardo only. The black model just looks dirty.

Sit down, don’t move
It’s possible to transport your child safely in a Lamborghini. “This seat fits in a Mercedes convertible 600 SL, and that’s comparable,” Bettina Würstl, marketing director of the German company that made Ben’s kiddy seat, wrote in a pre-drive email exchange. And she’s right. Ben’s child seat fits right into the Gallardo’s leather bucket seats. Once strapped in, he’s ready to endure lift off and g-forces in all directions. If only the road show supervisor weren’t here. For the optimal boy toy-plus-family experience, we’re better off waiting until at least 2012, when Audi rolls out its four-door, four-seater Estoque Concept.

Seven shiny buttons dominate the centre of the Gallardo console, all crying out to be touched. Like the car itself, this row of six chrome buttons and one red makes a clear, bold statement. The car’s computerised gearing system, with the “Corsa” button offering more aggressive shifting and performance, begs a question straight from Spinal Tap: If the Gallardo is already a perfect 10, what about 11? Good thing the child seat is keeping Ben away from any buttons.

Reined in, but raring to go
Boy toys weren’t meant to move this slowly. The test course winds through endless villages, all bound by a speed limit of 40kph. Without incessant reminders from a navigation system – or a wife – it’s hard to curb the speed to this level with any car. Like so many tasks in adult life, it’s possible, but just no fun. Outside villages, winding roads and the occasional chance to pass a tractor give just a hint of what this car can do. Like Ben, the car is not deterred by dirt clumps or other dunglike matter. Unlike my son, the Gallardo manages to keep going solidly in motion without toppling over on its nose. It’s the all-wheel drive that does the trick.

The amorous couple having a postdrive cigarette in the chateau’s Lamborghini lounge makes it abundantly clear: Ben’s about three years too late – or a good 20 years too early – for the Gallardo marketers. This is a car for preproduction activities, at least when it comes to people. One look at Ben tells me he has other bedtime issues on his mind: It’s time for this boy’s nap – without the boy toy.

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